Welcome to the Globe Theatre, borne unto the world in the year 1599, has been host to Elizabethan performances, most notably shakespeare's plays, for centuries. The Original globe was built by Peter Smith’s London construction team and funded by Richard Burbage. Burbage, who is perhaps the most famous actor of the late 1500s and early 1600s, was also an entrepreneur, painter and theatre owner. Burbage is known for playing the part of Hamlet, Othello and Richard the third in multiple performances of shakespeare's plays. The first globe theatre was actually constructed from timber from the dissembled theatre his father owned, known solely as “the theatre”.
The globe is set up as a 20 sided polygon, 100 feet across, looking like a huge high poly donut from above. The three stories of seating were roofed, but the stage and pit were uncovered, leaving the “hole” of the “donut”. The three floors have to access stairwells, which jut out the sides of the donut. The open air construction provided for lovely aesthetics but meant weather could affect performances, with the pit being rained on often in foggy London. There were four large exits, which became very helpful when the first globe burned to the ground. In 1613, a prop cannon malfunctioned, in a production of Henry the 8th, setting flame to the thatched roof, burning completely within two hours. According to eyewitness testimony, there were no deaths or injuries sustained in the fire but for ONE man whose trousers caught fire, BUT were put out with a pint of beer, and he was supposedly okay. If you have gone thru osha training at careerline tech center, you may remember watching a video of people escaping a fire at a concert venue. The venue was smaller, had several exit points, and burned in about the time period, but several people died or were injured. Comparably, to a world with safety standards, this mass fire escape was a feat of humanity, especially in the 17th century.
Where one sat in the Globe was determined by status/ wealth. The theatre yard/ or pit was packed full every night, probably due to very low prices. Tickets were the equivalent to approximately 10% of one days wage for the average lower class laborer. The people in this section were known as the “groundlings” or the “stinkards” in the summer heat. Known for being noisy, drunken and boisterous, they gambled, fought, thieved and peddled, but it wasn’t all bad. Groundlings had such a close view and the community felt in the crowd must have been inspiring, to witness some of the greatest actors of all time, up close, for cheap!
In the galleries- the roofed seating section- sat the bourgeoisie, as tickets to sit were a little more expensive. The richest of nobles could even view the performance from a big fancy chair set on the side of the stage, for the closest, most in-the-action seat in the house.
After the original globe burnt down in 1613, it was swiftly rebuilt, opening again in 1614, about 750 feet away from the original site, and stood proudly, pulling in thousands of theatre-goers every week for 28 years until 1642 when the art-intolerant puritan religious movement in england forced it to close. Shortly thereafter, the theatre was demolished to make room for tenements.
The London theatre remained unrebuilt for 353 years until 1997 when a replica named “shakespeare’s globe” was erected. Additionally, there is a travelling pop up globe in Australia as well as many other replicas all over the world, where shakespearean plays are still performed to this day. About a 45 minute drive from allendale is a fine arts camp by the name of blue lake, there, is housed a theatre called “the rose”--named after another london theatre but modeled after the Globe, at about half the size.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of productions have been performed at the various version of the globe over the centuries. Countless nights of spectators enthralled by plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and King Lear. The type of play performed at the globe was signified by the color coded flags outside. A black flag symbolized a tragedy, red a history, and white a comedy.
Year after year, Shakespeare’s highly influential, world famous plays are performed just as they were at the original globe theatre and in many modern adaptations, and they will likely continue to be popular for centuries longer.